Saturday, September 22, 2018

His Word Today: Stories

Good morning everyone,

Do you remember a time during your childhood when you were introduced to the magical world of Walt Disney films, or when you allowed your imagination to run away on the adventures proposed by the best of children's authors?  Those stories entertained us for hours.  It was only many years later, after we had grown up, that we realized the wisdom that such masterpieces contained: not only were they captivating the spirits and hearts of children, they were also imparting wisdom that was preparing us for adulthood.

The same can be said for the stories that Jesus told, like the one that appears in today's gospel passage.  It starts out innocently enough: all - or at least most - of those who were listening would instantly have identified with a sower going out into his field to sow seeds (cf Lk 8:5), but before they realized it, Jesus was using this image to teach a very valuable lesson about how his words find their way into some people's hearts but are resisted or even rejected by others' (cf Lk 8:5-8).

It seems as though the world around us is constantly urging us to blame others for our misfortune, but Jesus is reminding us to turn things back around: this good news story - the fact that Jesus suffered, died and rose again to new life - is our destiny too.  Instead of blaming everyone else for our misfortunes, we should rejoice in the fact that such a promise has been made to us, and look forward to the joy of eternal life.

Have a great day.

Friday, September 21, 2018

His Word Today: Saint Matthew

Saint Matthew and the Angel
by Guido Reni
Good morning everyone,

Today, the Church celebrates the Feast of Saint Matthew, the Apostle.  Matthew was a first-century Galilean, the son of Alpheus, who is referred to as Levi the tax collector in some parts of the gospels.  He would have been literate in Aramaic and in Greek, but his fellow Jews would have despised him because tax collectors were understood to be collaborating with the Roman occupiers.

Jesus encountered Matthew, as he also encounters each one of us.  The scriptures say that as Jesus passed by, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post, and he said to him: 'Follow me' (Mt 9:9).  When the word saw is used in the gospels, we must understand that Jesus not only saw him with his eyes, but that he saw all the hidden parts of Matthew, all of his potential, all that he had been hiding - from himself or from others - and that Jesus loved all that he saw.  He invited Matthew to follow him, and this invitation changed the tax collector's life.

In response to Jesus' invitation, Matthew issued his own invitation for Jesus to come to dinner at his house.  This act of generosity is an expected outcome of those who come to recognize the generosity of God when we too are seen, loved and called.  Are you aware of the moment when Jesus saw you in this way, when he called you and invited you to follow him?  Can you recall the reaction of overwhelming generosity in answer to such an invitation?  An authentic call that comes from God will always be the result of such an encounter, and the result of our yes will always be an exceeding awareness of joy.  Give thanks today for the gift of having been called, and for having had the courage to accept the invitation to follow Jesus.

Have a great day.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

His Word Today; Saint Andrew Kim Taegon

Good morning everyone,

Today, the Church celebrates the liturgical Memorial of Saint Andrew Kim Taegon (21 August 1821 - 16 September 1846), who was the first Korean-born Catholic priest and the patron saint of that country.

In the early part of the nineteenth century, Roman Catholicism began to slowly take root in Korea, introduced by scholars who visited China and brought back Western books translated into Chinese. In 1836 the first consecrated missionaries (members of the Paris Foreign Missions Society) arrived, only to find out that the people there were already practicing Korean Catholics.

Saint Andrew's parents were converts and his father was subsequently martyred for practising Christianity, a prohibited activity in heavily Confucian Korea. After being baptized at age 15, Andrew studied at a seminary in the Portuguese colony of Macau. He also spent time in study at Lolomboy, Bocaue, Bulacan, Philippines, where today he is also venerated. He was ordained a priest in Shanghai after nine years (1844) and then returned to Korea to preach and evangelize.  Like Saint Paul, Saint Andrew handed on to his contemporaries as of first importance what he also had received (1 Cor 15:3): faith and belief in Jesus.

During the Joseon Dynasty, Christianity was suppressed and many Christians were persecuted and executed. Catholics had to covertly practise their faith. Andrew was one of several thousand Christians who were executed during this time. In 1846, at the age of 25, he was tortured and beheaded near Seoul on the Han River. His last words were:

This is my last hour of life, listen to me attentively: if I have held communication with foreigners, it has been for my religion and for my God. It is for Him that I die. My immortal life is on the point of beginning. Become Christians if you wish to be happy after death, because God has eternal chastisements in store for those who have refused to know Him.

On 6 May 1984, Pope John Paul II canonized Saint Andrew Kim along with 102 other Korean Martyrs, including Paul Chong Hasang, during his trip to Korea.  Let us ask these brave pioneers in the faith to pray for us, that we in our turn may find the words and the courage to live lives that will inspire others to follow in Jesus' footsteps.

Have a great day.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

His Word Today: Clarity

Good morning everyone,

No matter who we are, if we want to find answers, we have to be able to hear the questions, and our ability to hear the questions that are asked can be obscured by the noise that sometimes surrounds us.  Some questions - the most important ones - can only be answered once we have managed to filter out the noise.  Without such a filter, we can easily become confused about the aim of our search.

Aware of the distractions that were keeping the people of his generation from finding their way, Jesus used the images of John the Baptist who came neither eating food nor drinking wine and the Son of Man who came eating and drinking (Jn 7:33-34) - opposite extremes, to illustrate the fact that the people of his generation seemed not to know what they really wanted.

We all need to ask the Lord to grant us the wisdom not to get lost in the noise that surrounds us.  Rather, he can show us the way to truly listen with clarity for the guidance that he wants to offer us.

Have a great day.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

His Word Today: Compassion

Good morning everyone,

One of the precious gifts that we learn from Jesus is the ability to be close to others at times in their lives when they are happy, but even more importantly, when they are sad, distraught and grieving.  If we have ever been in a situation where we have tried to console someone who has lost a loved one, we will know how strange it can be to want for words.

It might help to look to Jesus for some guidance with this challenge as well.  When he came upon a woman who was being escorted outside the walls of her hometown so that she could bury her only son, he was not afraid to draw close to her, to enter into the drama that was unfolding and to be present to her in the midst of her grief (cf Lk 7:11-13).

The woman was not capable of absorbing any spoken condolence, but Jesus' actions spoke louder than words.  The same can be true for us.  At times when we cannot absorb the wisdom of the spoken word, the actions of those around us can speak volumes.  Today, let us ask for the grace to recognize those who are in need, even those who are incapable of recognizing their own need, and the courage to act out of love and compassion for them.

Have a great day.

Monday, September 17, 2018

His Word Today: Faith

Good morning everyone,

How many times have you found yourself praying for some favour or another, or perhaps praying for someone who is sick or in need?  Maybe someone has asked you to pray for him or her, and so you do, but do we always take it for granted that our prayers have been heard?  Praying with confidence is entirely different.  When we pray with confidence, we develop confidence that the Lord is listening to us.

In case we should think that such confidence in prayer is not possible, we need only look at today's gospel passage.  A centurion in Capernaum had a slave who was ill and about to die and he sent word to Jesus ... asking him to come and save the life of his slave (Lk 7:2-3), yet while Jesus was still on the way to meet the centurion, he sent word: Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof ... simply say the word and let my servant be healed (Lk 7:6-7).

What faith!  And yet, we too can have this level of trust.  It comes from building a relationship day by day with others - human beings and even God.  Perhaps today, we can ask the Lord to grant us all this level of faith and trust so that we can know with certainty that our prayers are heard and that what we ask for will be granted.

Have a great day.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

A journey worth taking

Why is it that we still tell the story of a certain man who grew up in a remote village in Israel?  Two thousand years have come and gone since he was born, and still people talk about him.  The words he spoke and the things he did still cause us to question our own words and actions.  The research that has been done about him and the books that have been written about him can fill entire libraries.  Still, for those who believe in him and who strive to follow his teachings, intellectual knowledge about him is never enough.  There is always another question that tugs at our hearts, and that question is voiced in the gospel we have just heard: Who do you say that I am? (Mk 8:29).

In order to answer this question, we can do our research: we can seek answers from other people and from other sources (cf Mk 8:27), but ultimately, each one of us must answer Jesus’ question for ourselves.

We may want to answer right away, like the apostle Peter did.  His quick response is a simple profession of faith that we would all like to make our own: You are the Christ! ... but what did Peter understand when he called Jesus the Messiah?  Like his friends, Peter had heard that a saviour would appear, one who had been long awaited, one who would be powerful, one who would restore the glory of Israel and put an end to Roman occupation.  Peter’s vision of the Messiah was defined according to human expectations, but Jesus had a different image of salvation, one that was much wider than the scope of Peter’s vision.

The salvation that Jesus was preparing for would ultimately lead him to Jerusalem and the events that would take place there would impact not only the lives of his faithful disciples, but people all over the world, for centuries to come ... but as Jesus spoke to the disciples about this plan, they could not understand his meaning.  Instead of glory, he spoke about suffering; instead of acceptance, he spoke about rejection; instead of celebration, he spoke of a violent death that was to come (cf Mk 8:31).  Their human intellects could not comprehend the true scope of Jesus’ plan: that his suffering, rejection and death would ultimately lead to the resurrection and to new life.

Two thousand years later, we still have difficulty understanding the true meaning of sacrifice.  It’s not enough for us to merely speak about Jesus, or to base our relationship simply on words that we have learned, words that we have memorized and repeat without thinking about them.  Saint Paul cautions that it is not enough to say that we have faith if we do not also have works by which our words can be brought to life (cf Jas 2:14).

Only those who have encountered Jesus personally, those who take the time to walk with him can learn who he truly is, and following Jesus will always lead us to the cross, for this is the only road that leads to the resurrection and to eternal life where there will be no more suffering, no more death, only endless joy in His presence.